GENEVA (Jun. 19)
The Wolf Haggadah, a valuable, 14th-century manuscript whose ownership is contested by parties from at least three nations, now has a temporary home in the vault of a Swiss courthouse.
The Haggadah, which is valued at about $500,000, had been scheduled to go on sale Monday night at the Habsburg Feldman auction house here.
But a Geneva judge ruled Monday that the rare manuscript could not be auctioned until its current ownership is ascertained. Judge Vladimir Stemberger said he would examine the competing claims and rule on the matter in a month’s time.
Stemberger said that four parties have laid claim to the Haggadah ownership: the Jewish communities of both East and West Berlin, Polish authorities acting on behalf of Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute, as well as a private individual the judge declined to name.
Court officials, however, revealed that the anonymous claimant is a resident of New York. The individual told the court the Haggadah was purchased after a thorough check that its previous owner was entitled to sell it.
Stemberger also ruled that, “because of the manuscript’s artistic and historic importance,” it would go on display Monday night during the Judaica auction at which it was to have been sold.
Art collectors and historians from over a dozen countries have gathered in Geneva for the occasion. Many wanted a chance to at least view the Haggadah.
“I didn’t want to disappoint them,” Stemberger told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The illustrated and illuminated medieval Haggadah belonged to the Berlin Jewish community before World War II. After the war, the manuscript appeared in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. The Haggadah disappeared from the Warsaw museum in 1987, and Judaica scholars say it was stolen.